Campaign mounts for Sunday hunting

Harrisburg – The Governor’s Advisory Council on Hunting, Fishing
and Conservation has kicked off an educational campaign about the
benefits of allowing hunting on Sundays in the state.

The effort is in support of a bill introduced by Rep. Ed
Staback, D-Lackawanna and Wayne counties, that would remove the
prohibition on Sunday hunting and allow the Pennsylvania Game
Commission to decide whether hunting on Sundays should be
permitted, in which seasons and for what species (HB 779).

The ban on Sunday hunting is Pennsylvania’s last surviving blue
law, and Sunday hunting is now permitted in 40 other states –
including Maryland, Ohio, New York and West Virginia. The blue law
prohibiting Sunday fishing in the commonwealth was repealed in

Lobbying by the 22-member council for Sunday hunting will be
intense, according to Robert Miller, Gov. Ed Rendell’s adviser for
hunting, fishing and conservation. In the last month, he has
extolled the virtues of Sunday hunting to the Allegheny County
Sportsmen’s League and to county sportsmen’s organizations in
Cambria and Somerset.

Members of the governor’s council made a presentation on the
subject to the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs’ annual
convention in early September in Somerset. Support of that group –
which has historically opposed Sunday hunting but whose members
have been closely divided on the subject in recent years – is seen
as pivotal.

“Our educational effort and discussion of Rep. Staback’s bill
will allow for a larger debate on Sunday hunting,” Miller said.
“Instead of continuing an outdated blanket prohibition, it would
allow a serious public discussion on this issue – and there are a
lot of us who think that this conversation is long overdue.”

Hunting license sales have fallen 28 percent in Pennsylvania
from 1981 to 2007, and projections indicate that another 24 percent
decline may occur by 2025.

According to a recent study, “Fishing and Hunting Recruitment in
the U.S. from 1990 to 2005,” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
time constraints appear to be the biggest barrier to increasing
hunting participation.

Allowing Sunday hunting would be a major step towards addressing
the problem in the Keystone State, Miller believes.

“Lack of time is a big concern with youths getting involved with
hunting,” he said. “Even kids who do hunt today, if you ask them
what they would like to see changed, they will say they need more
time to hunt.

“We are in a competition for young people’s time. They have a
lot of things to do today, and hunting doesn’t have to be one of

Despite the council’s commitment to Sunday hunting, Gov. Rendell
is not yet on board with the effort to legalize it, Miller
conceded. But he hopes the council can persuade him to lift the ban
on it.

“I see the governor as intrigued by this issue,” he said. “I
can’t say what his position will be on Staback’s legislation coming
to his desk because it hasn’t, but the governor understands that
the activity of hunting is under a lot of stress right now.

“Gov. Rendell is aware of the job creation and economic stimulus
that Sunday hunting represents in this state. And he is also
interested in preserving our state’s rich hunting heritage because
he sees hunting as a healthy, wholesome, family activity.”

The impact of allowing Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania would be
huge, Miller contends. He cited a study done a few years ago by the
Legislative Budget and Finance Committee that concluded that
allowing hunting on Sundays would result in the creation of 5,300

“The overall economic impact would be immense,” he said. “If we
allowed Sunday hunting across the board for all game species,
according to that study, it would generate an additional $629
million annually.

“That economic stimulus would result from the average hunter
hunting an additional 4.7 days a year.”

Miller was optimistic that the Pennsylvania Federation of
Sportsmen’s Clubs would end up backing Sunday hunting. “The
federation is changing on this issue, and I am hopeful that it is a
generational thing,” he explained. “I expect the older hunters out
there will recognize that younger hunters need whole weekends
because study after study have shown the reason more people don’t
hunt is because they need more time.

“Things have changed – the older hunters need to admit that
things are not like they used to be.”

But Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania remains a volatile issue,
Miller admitted. “Understandably, this topic can stir a range of
emotions even among hunters, not to mention other users of public
lands such as hikers and bicyclists,” he said.

Still, predictions of problems that would occur if Sunday
hunting is permitted have been overblown, according to Miller.

“Interestingly, the surrounding states that now allow people to
hunt on both days of the weekend have experienced few of the
problems some people predict would plague Pennsylvania, such as
increased posting of private land,” he said. “Not one of these
states has plans to repeal Sunday hunting.

“Given the positive experience in other states, the governor’s
advisory council believes that doing away with this remaining blue
law is worth considering.”

Miller urged individuals and organizations interested in
learning more about expanding hunting opportunities to contact the
Governor’s Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing and Conservation
by calling him at (717) 772-3292.

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